Gov. Kevin Stitt and Democratic challenger Joy Hofmeister debated on Wednesday at an event hosted by NonDoc and News 9.
The staff of The Frontier produced this gubernatorial debate fact check by using public records, government data and other sources to examine some of the candidates’ claims.
Claim: Hofmeister claimed that, under Stitt’s administration, violent crime rates in Oklahoma are higher than in New York and California.
Hofmeister said: “The rates of violent crime are higher in Oklahoma, under your watch, than in New York and California. That’s a fact.”
Fact check: True, but misleading
It’s true that in 2020, Oklahoma had a higher rate of violent crime — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — than both New York and California, but that’s been the case for much of the last 20 years, according to The FBI’s uniform crime data. While there was a slight uptick in Oklahoma’s violent crime rate between 2019 and 2020, the increase tracked closely with a nationwide rise in reported violent crime during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oklahoma has consistently had a higher crime rate than the national average since 2001. The data shows Oklahoma has had a higher rate of violent crime than California since 2008 for every year except 2019 and the violent crime rate in New York has been lower than Oklahoma’s for every year since 2002.
— Clifton Adcock
Claim: Stitt suggested that Oklahoma has a lower violent crime rate than New York or California.
Stitt said: “That’s not true” in response to a claim by Hofmeister that Oklahoma has higher violent crime rates now than New York and California. “Oklahomans, do you believe we have higher crime than New York or California? That’s what she just said.”
Fact check: False
Oklahoma has a higher violent crime rate than both New York and California, according to law enforcement data collected annually by the FBI. In 2020, the latest year for which complete data is available, Oklahoma had a violent crime rate of 458.6 incidents per 100,000 people. California had a violent crime rate of 442 incidents per 100,000 people for the same period, while New York had a violent crime rate of 363.8 incidents per 100,000 people. The national average for violent crime in 2020 was 398.5. Oklahoma had the 14th highest violent crime rate in the nation, compared to California at 17th and New York at 27th.
— Clifton Adcock
Claim: The state of Oklahoma did not lose $17 million in the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen scandal.
Stitt said: “To say that the taxpayers have lost $17 million in the Swadley’s scandal is simply untrue.”
Fact check: Mixed
A state spending watchdog found that Oklahoma spent over $16.7 million to build, maintain and operate the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen restaurants in state parks, and a review from The Frontier found that the state overpaid for equipment on top of more than $540,000 in extra fees from Swadley’s. While the venture did cost nearly $17 million, the state still owns the renovated but now-closed restaurants, which can be leased to a new operator.
The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department lost $12.4 million in taxpayer money from lax spending oversight of the Swadley’s deal, the head of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency told state lawmakers at a hearing in May.
— Reese Gorman
Claim: Oklahoma ranks 46th in the country for spending on students.
Hofmeister said: “We are 46th lowest in the nation in what we invest in the children of Oklahoma compared to other states.”
Fact check: Mostly true
A May 2022 report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows Oklahoma spent on average $9,395 per K-12 student in Fiscal Year 2020, landing the state technically at 47th lowest in the nation.
Oklahoma’s per-pupil spending has increased in recent years but still falls behind compared to other states in the region. Texas spends $10,394 per student and Kansas spends $11,960, according to the report.
— Kayla Branch
Claim: States including Colorado, California and New York allow for abortions up until birth.
Stitt said: “There are states like Colorado and California and New York, that will abort babies, all the way up until the time of birth.”
Fact check: Mostly false
According to an Associated Press review of state abortion laws, California only allows abortions until the point of fetal viability which is around 23 to 24 weeks. In New York, abortion is permitted in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception for non-viable fetuses, or to save the life of a mother.
In Colorado, there is no limit on when an abortion can take place, but late-term abortions are rare. Less than 1% of abortions in the United States occur after 21 weeks of gestation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The Frontier fact-checked this claim about Colorado earlier this year and found it true, but misleading.
— Reese Gorman
Claim: Oklahoma tribes are collectively the largest employer in the state.
Hofmeister said: “Collectively, they are the largest employer in the state.”
Fact Check: Mostly false
The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest employer in Oklahoma, with 68,000 to 70,000 jobs in the state between 2019 and 2021, according to data from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. The numbers include military and civilian jobs at U.S. Army and Air Force facilities across the state.
Oklahoma tribes collectively employed 54,201 workers in 2019, according to an economic impact study commissioned by the Oklahoma Tribal Financial Consortium.
Choctaw Principal Chief Gary Batton told reporters in March when the study was released that Oklahoma tribes are the second-largest employer in Oklahoma, The Oklahoman reported.
— Brianna Bailey
Claim: After the McGirt U.S. Supreme Court decision, a citizen of the Five Tribes living within the boundaries of a reservation could claim the state’s exempt tribal income tax exclusion, regardless of the source of their earnings.
Stitt said: “Can you imagine a CEO of a bank in eastern Oklahoma not paying taxes, but a single mom of a different race does? … What they were asking for is anything in eastern Oklahoma because that was what was federalized after McGirt under what is called a reservation.”
Fact check: Mostly false
It’s true that about 9,000 tribal citizens have appealed to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, attempting to qualify for the state’s exempt tribal income tax exclusion. Stitt also correctly noted that the federal government and some tribal leaders and citizens have attempted to assert that the McGirt decision affects civil jurisdiction on matters such as taxation. But state code specifies that to qualify for the exclusion, the income must be paid to an active member of the U.S. military or be “earned from sources within ‘Indian Country’ under the jurisdiction of the tribe to which the member belongs.”
— Tres Savage, NonDoc
- True: A claim that is backed up by factual evidence
- Mostly true: A claim that is mostly true but also contains some inaccurate details
- Mixed: A claim that contains a combination of accurate and inaccurate or unproven information
- True but misleading: A claim that is factually true but omits critical details or context
- Mostly false: A claim that is mostly false but also contains some accurate details
- False: A claim that has no basis in fact